AP courses in calculus consist of a full high school academic year of work and are comparable to calculus courses in colleges and universities. It is expected that students who take an AP course in calculus will seek college credit, college placement, or both from institutions of higher learning.

The AP Program includes specifications for two calculus courses and the exam for each course. The two courses and the two corresponding exams are designated as Calculus AB and Calculus BC.

Calculus AB can be offered as an AP course by any school that can organize a curriculum for students with mathematical ability. This curriculum should include all the prerequisites for a year’s course in calculus listed on page 6. Calculus AB is designed to be taught over a full high school academic year. It is possible to spend some time on elementary functions and still teach the Calculus AB curriculum within a year. However, if students are to be adequately prepared for the Calculus AB Exam, most of the year must be devoted to the topics in differential and integral calculus describedon pages 6 to 9. These topics are the focus of the AP Exam questions.

Calculus BC can be offered by schools where students are able to complete all the prerequisites listed on page 6 before taking the course. Calculus BC is a full-year course in the calculus of functions of a single variable. It includes all topics taught in Calculus AB plus additional topics, but both courses are intended to be challenging and demanding; they require a similar depth of understanding of common topics. The topics for Calculus BC are describedon pages 9 to 12. A Calculus AB subscore is reported based on performance on the portion of the Calculus BC Exam devoted to Calculus AB topics.

Both courses described here represent college-level mathematics for which most colleges grant advanced placement and/or credit. Most colleges and universities offer a sequence of several courses in calculus, and entering students are placed within this sequence according to the extent of their preparation, as measured by the results of an AP Exam or other criteria. Appropriate credit and placement are granted by each institution in accordance with local policies. The content of Calculus BC is designed to qualify the student for placement and credit in a course that is one course beyond that granted for Calculus AB. Many colleges provide statements regarding their AP policies in their catalogs and on their websites.

Secondary schools have a choice of several possible actions regarding AP Calculus. The option that is most appropriate for a particular school depends on local conditions and resources: school size, curriculum, the preparation of teachers, and the interest of students, teachers, and administrators.

Success in AP Calculus is closely tied to the preparation students have had in courses leading up to their AP courses. Students should have demonstrated mastery of material from courses that are the equivalent of four full years of high school mathematics before attempting calculus. These courses should include the study of algebra, geometry, coordinate geometry, and trigonometry, with the fourth year of study including advanced topics in algebra, trigonometry, analytic geometry, and elementary functions. Even though schools may choose from a variety of ways to accomplish these studies — including beginning the study of high school mathematics in grade 8; encouraging the election of more than one mathematics course in grade 9, 10, or 11; or instituting a program of summer study or guided independent study — it should be emphasized that eliminating preparatory course work in order to take an AP course is not appropriate.

The AP Calculus Development Committee recommends that calculus should be taught as a college-level course. With a solid foundation in courses taken before AP, students will be prepared to handle the rigor of a course at this level. Students who take an AP Calculus course should do so with the intention of placing out of a comparable college calculus course. This may be done through the AP Exam, a college placement exam, or any other method employed by the college.

I. Functions, Graphs, and Limits

Analysis of graphs. With the aid of technology, graphs of functions are often easy to produce. The emphasis is on the interplay between the geometric and analytic information and on the use of calculus both to predict and to explain the observed local and global behavior of a function.

Limits of functions (including one-sided limits)

• An intuitive understanding of the limiting process.

• Calculating limits using algebra.

• Estimating limits from graphs or tables of data.

Asymptotic and unbounded behavior

• Understanding asymptotes in terms of graphical behavior.

•Describing asymptotic behavior in terms of limits involving infinity.

• Comparing relative magnitudes of functions and their rates of change (for example, contrasting exponential growth, polynomial growth, and logarithmic growth).

Continuity as a property of functions

• An intuitive understanding of continuity. (The function values can be made as close as desired by taking sufficiently close values of the domain.)

• Understanding continuity in terms of limits.

• Geometric understanding of graphs of continuous functions (Intermediate Value Theorem and Extreme Value Theorem).